Immigration: le débat sur le mur éclipse les autres complications

À Washington, tout tourne autour du mur. À la frontière avec le Mexique, ce n’est pourtant qu’une partie de l’histoire.

Les autorités frontalières se débattent avec des installations obsolètes mal équipées pour faire face à l’augmentation croissante du nombre de familles de migrants, ce qui entraîne le relâchement au quotidien d’immigrants dans la rue. Le système judiciaire d’immigration est tellement encombré que certains attendent des années avant que leurs affaires ne soient résolues et manquent de fonds pour des services de base comme celui d’un traducteur en personne.

Une augmentation du nombre d’enfants malades arrivant à la frontière pèse aussi lourdement sur les ressources en santé.

Malgré tout, le débat à Washington a porté presque exclusivement sur les 5 milliards de financement réclamés par le président Donald Trump pour un mur. Les autres propositions en cours de discussion maintiendraient le financement du reste du département de la Sécurité intérieure aux niveaux existants.

« Le mur est un outil. Malheureusement, même s’il est construit tout au long de la frontière, il ne résoudra pas tous les problèmes », a souligné Victor M. Manjarrez, ancien chef des patrouilles frontalières avec plus de 20 ans d’expérience, et aujourd’hui professeur à l’Université du Texas-El Paso.

Le président Trump a laissé entendre que les migrants ne prendraient pas la peine de venir s’il parvenait à ses fins avec le mur-frontière, ce qui rendrait d’autres enjeux d’immigration moins problématiques. Des murs et des clôtures couvrent actuellement environ un tiers de la frontière – principalement construits sous l’administration du président George W. Bush – et M. Trump souhaite les prolonger et les fortifier. Toutefois, la sous-traitance, la conception et la construction de nouveaux systèmes de murs dotés de technologies de pointe pourraient prendre des années.

M. Trump a rencontré vendredi les leaders du Congrès américain qui ont déclaré que le président prévenait que la paralysie budgétaire pourrait durer encore « des années ». Le président a dit plus tard qu’il envisagerait d’utiliser le pouvoir exécutif pour construire un mur à la frontière.

« Vous pouvez appeler cela une barrière, vous pouvez appeler ça comme vous voulez », avait déclaré M. Trump un jour plus tôt, accompagné de représentants de travailleurs à la frontière. « Mais essentiellement, nous avons besoin de protection dans notre pays. Nous allons y arriver. Les gens de notre pays le veulent. »

Dans le même temps, la Chambre a adopté un projet de loi jeudi soir visant à financer le gouvernement sans les 5 milliards souhaités par M. Trump, la nouvelle présidente démocrate Nancy Pelosi qualifiant le mur « d’immoral ».

Des familles qui ne veulent pas échapper à la capture

Le débat néglige d’importants goulots d’étranglement dans le système d’immigration alors que de plus en plus de familles et d’enfants voyageant seuls se présentent aux autorités pour demander l’asile, au lieu d’essayer d’échapper à la capture, comme presque tout le monde le faisait il y a quelques années. Dans certains cas, des migrants escaladent la barrière frontalière existante et recherchent des agents pour se rendre.

L’arriéré des tribunaux d’immigration a plus que doublé pour atteindre 1,1 million de cas depuis peu avant l’entrée en fonction de M. Trump, selon Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse de l’Université de Syracuse. Les familles et les enfants comptent maintenant pour environ six sur 10 arrestations par des patrouilles frontalières, mais il n’y a qu’environ 3300 lits de détention pour les familles et le nombre d’enfants non accompagnés pris en charge par le gouvernement a considérablement augmenté sous l’administration Trump.

Les migrants ayant traversé la frontière sont bloqués dans des cellules de détention à court terme pendant plusieurs jours et le nombre d’enfants migrants malades a atteint des sommets. Deux enfants sont morts en détention.

En outre, le mur fera peu pour résoudre le problème des visas échus – lorsque des immigrants arrivent dans le pays légalement et y restent après l’expiration de leurs papiers. Selon les autorités, il y a eu près de 740 000 séjours prolongés après l’échéance d’un visa au cours d’une période récente de 12 mois.

Et les agents frontaliers continuent de composer avec un nombre croissant d’enfants et de familles. Les responsables disent qu’ils interceptent environ 2000 personnes par jour, dont plus de 60 % sont des enfants et des familles, une proportion plus grande que pendant plusieurs périodes sous le président Barack Obama. Ils ont relayé 451 cas à un fournisseur de soins de santé du 22 au 30 décembre, plus de la moitié des enfants.

Des responsables « dépassés » par les événements

David Aguilar, chef de la police des frontières de 2004 à 2010 et ancien commissaire par intérim aux douanes et à la protection des frontières, a soutenu que les agences responsables de la détention à long terme en immigration avaient besoin de fonds supplémentaires pour pouvoir intervenir immédiatement après l’interpellation à la frontière. Il dit croire que les responsables sont « dépassés » par le sort de tous les enfants et de toutes les familles traversant la frontière, ce qui est très différent de la situation des années 90 et 2000.

« Les données démographiques et les flux à la frontière sud sont très différents de ceux observés lors de la construction des murs d’origine… en 2006 et 2008 », a-t-il déclaré.

M. Trump a augmenté de façon importante le nombre de juges de l’immigration, mais Ashley Tabaddor, présidente de l’Association nationale des juges de l’immigration, a fait valoir que le personnel de soutien était insuffisant. Environ une semaine avant le shutdown au gouvernement fédéral, on a dit aux juges que les tribunaux étaient à court d’argent pour de nombreux traducteurs en personne et que, par conséquent, ils devraient les joindre par téléphone. Une audience qui aurait généralement duré trois minutes s’étalerait sur une vingtaine de minutes.

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